WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s health has deteriorated so much that he could die in prison, 60 doctors have said in a letter to British Home Secretary Priti Patel, AFP reported on Monday.
Assange is currently serving 50 weeks in London’s Belmarsh Prison for skipping bail in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he was facing a rape investigation. The rape charges were dropped last week. The 48-year-old Australian journalist and whistleblower is also fighting an American bid to extradite him from Britain on charges filed under the Espionage Act for publishing classified documents, soliciting such information, and conspiring to hack into a government computer. The trial will begin in February 2019, and might see Assange getting sentenced up to 175 years in prison if he is found guilty in the United States.
The doctors – who are from the United States, Australia, Britain, Sweden, Italy, Germany, Sri Lanka, Poland – told Patel that they based their assessment on “harrowing eyewitness accounts” of his October 21 court appearance in London and a November 1 report by Nils Melzer, the United Nations special rapporteur on torture. Melzer said Assange’s “continued exposure to arbitrariness and abuse may soon end up costing his life”.
They voiced concerns about Assange’s fitness to go through the extradition hearing. “Mr Assange requires urgent expert medical assessment of both his physical and psychological state of health,” they added. “Any medical treatment indicated should be administered in a properly equipped and expertly staffed university teaching hospital [tertiary care].”
The doctors said that on the basis of available evidence Assange could die in prison if he did not receive such urgent assessment and treatment. “The medical situation is thereby urgent,” added the medical practitioners. “There is no time to lose.”
Dr Lissa Johnson, a clinical psychologist in Australia and one of the letter’s signatories, said that as it stood, “serious questions surround not only the health impacts of Mr Assange’s detention conditions, but his medical fitness to stand trial and prepare his defence”, reported Mail Online.